Dads2Dads: Increasing your child’s self-esteem
Dec 6, 2015 at 6:00 PM
We’ve written a lot about the importance of an adolescent having a strong and positive sense of self—of feeling good about who he or she is. We’ve also addressed the negative consequences that occur when a young person possesses a low opinion of himself—when he or she feels unimportant and unappreciated. An adolescent whose self-esteem is at rock bottom is easy prey for someone who builds him up, makes her feel worthy and provides him with a sense of purpose. If you make me feel important, I will be your friend. I will stay by your side and do your bidding.
Street gangs recruit that way. Terrorist organizations, we have learned, draft innocent kids into service because these lost youth are made to feel a sense of place and importance. Even a bunch of bullies at school create an inner-circle mentality where each member discovers courage and aggression. When a child suffers low self-esteem at home—the one place where he or she should be encouraged to feel empowered—it is a sure thing that someone somewhere will make him feel at home.
We know, however, that some kids, by their very nature, beat themselves up until they feel inferior. Many adolescents are self-conscious beyond reason. They look in the mirror and see nothing but blemishes. They feel out of step with the latest fads. They simply do not measure up. They feel alone, alienated. Their body temperature is several degrees short of “cool.”
It takes understanding and empathetic parents to help keep an adolescent’s spirit from drowning in a sea of embarrassment and self-doubt. Here are a few suggestions for resuscitating your child’s spirit and boosting self-esteem:
● Recognize your child’s best skills. If a particular skill stands out, praise your child for possessing that skill and encourage him to develop it.
● Talk about how you’ve noticed her interest and ability in an area and discuss where that particular skill could lead her.
● Participate with your child. If it’s sports, make it possible for him to practice. If it requires equipment, try to obtain what you can afford or find out where you can use it. If it’s an intellectual pursuit, dive in with her. Let him open your eyes to his passion. If his interest is quirky or unique, celebrate his “march to the beat of a different drummer.”
● Find out if there are others who share your child’s interest. If there is a group or club involved in that particular activity, allow opportunity to explore that association. Research others who, possessing a similar skill, have excelled.
Often, teachers do not have the time to focus on one person’s passion. If left unattended, that passion can gradually deflate and disappear. Home is where a child can get personalized attention—where individuality can be praised—where self-esteem can be nurtured and reinforced.